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Duchatelet Leaves Disillusioned Supporters Sofa-r From the Club they Love

The search to find a supporter to sit on the ‘Fan Sofa’, a summer addition celebrated with greater enthusiasm by the club than any other, appears to be more strenuous than Charlton’s search to find a new head coach.

And those who occupy the cream-coloured travesty, ridiculed by opposition supporters and a point of embarrassment for regular attendees at The Valley, appear to be treated better than those who occupy the home dugout.

The focus on the sofa sitters before kick-off. A vantage point from a horrible and low position is apparently the best view in the house. They’re at least in a relatively comfortable position to sleep and pretend the game of football in front of them isn’t happening if it all gets too much.

Meanwhile, the head coach is handed a squad of players too small to be competitive when injuries hit. The head coach is unable to build a group with the characters he wants, and create a collective spirit and unity. The head coach must constantly shoulder the blame whenever a papered over crack in a flawed system reappears.

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And when those cracks swallow him, those who have created them merely replace him with someone else from the pool below. They brush him down, attach the transparent strings they think no one else can spot, and continue with their arrogant and misguided belief that their system is one beyond criticism.

But those who sit on the sofa, in reality, are not treated any better. Like the greenness of the pitch, the freshly painted gangways, and the increase in size of the big screen, they exist to gloss over a dire situation.

They are effectively used as a propaganda tool. “Look at us, aren’t we wonderful? Providing such a brilliant experience for our supporters. Creating an attachment. Understanding their needs. Our running of this club is superb”.

That misuse, though, is largely an irrelevance in terms of the mistreatment of supporters of Charlton Athletic. There is not a supporter, whether sat on the sofa, in the cheapest seat in London, or in the Vista Lounge, who is being treated with any respect.

For Roland Duchatelet’s regime, over the 22 months or so that he has owned the football club, has constantly attacked a fan base so regularly celebrated for their achievements as a determined and passionate collective. Their reward should not be this.

Those that have previously fought for the future of their club should not be forced to the point of complete detachment by the actions of an ownership allowed to conduct itself in such a narrow way, without any understanding or acceptance of the emotions of a supporter.

There will be some that suggest such a level of dissatisfaction is unfair. They will point to an investment of sorts, a financial improvement on what preceded this ownership, and point out that Duchatelet is a successful businessman, merely running a business.

A view as misguided as Duchatelet’s about running a football club, so different to a normal business irrespective of what anyone might believe.

A balance sheet is not celebrated. The ego of a man with no attachment to Charlton is not embraced. Some improvements to parts of a football club, while the elements that create attachment disintegrate, effectively an insult to the intelligence of supporters.

In fact, he knows we are intelligent. He knows there is dissatisfaction with the appointment of head coaches, the recruitment process, and the overall structure. But he ignores it. Supporters should not be treated so poorly. They’re disappearing, if not physically then emotionally.

Nor should they have to read Katrien Meire, a CEO more out of her depth than the head coaches employed by her and the man she serves, suggest the history of the club does not matter to her as she attempts to make her ‘achievements’ appear incredible. Her arrogance incredible; her ignorance even worse.

While Guy Luzon deserves better than to be backed by the clueless Meire during the week, by words not with an increase in his slender resources, only to be binned at the next opportunity.

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And supporters don’t deserve to experience the toxic atmospheres of Tuesday and Saturday. The anger, disillusionment and growing detachment. It’s impossible to take.

As such, the argument that the call to remove Luzon was right is a strong one. The performances of the previous week, lacking energy and effort, suggest he had lost the dressing room. Change needed.

But so too is the argument that Luzon, like Chris Powell, Jose Riga and Bob Peeters, was treated unfairly incredibly strong.

1

His appointment laughable, but the job done overall a creditable one. Overcoming the controversy of his appointment, and the scenario of the club in general, to achieve some decent results and momentarily win the fans over is commendable.

And even when he lost the fans, having been told he was going to be sacked by the Covered End and booed as he went down the tunnel, the anger was not exclusively aimed at him. An understanding existing that his squad too small, that he was merely a symptom of a much bigger problem. The boos for Luzon another way to show disconnection, and dissatisfaction with the Duchatelet regime.

In fact, results, and therefore criticism of those whose main contribution is towards on the pitch events, has become secondary. The saddest thing that a run of ten without victory and three disgusting performances in the previous week don’t matter as much as they should. The heart not there, and the focus elsewhere.

The overall state of the club more important to the point that I have barely thought about our 22nd position today. Relegation not as punishing as this lack of attachment.

A large part of ignoring the league position, of course, is the appointment of Karel Fraeye. Another network puppet, presented to supporters without comment from those that matter.

Apparently merely interim boss, but few are falling for that. Why would he leave a permanent job in the Belgian third tier for a temporary role?

Why would he leave that job for this crisis? He’ll have the same resources, and ultimately the same failure. The detachment will only increase.

A voice or two will say we should get behind him, but they’re missing the point. This isn’t about whether he can win games to save us from relegation. It’s about an under qualified head coach being appointed once again, purely on the basis of his relationship with Duchatelet, and willingness to work under him.

Apathy and anger increasing by the minute, but it matters little to Duchatelet.

It matters little that his system is failing again and again. That the last time a manager, an inexperienced one at that, with understanding of the English game was allowed to build his own squad, something very special happened. Powell and his side still so loved; those that remain from it still treasured.

Lead by Johnnie Jackson, those that remain from the time are suffering with similar emotions. The players of quality, such as Johann Berg Gudmundsson, deserve better. Those that have departed, such as Michael Morrison, Yann Kermorgant and Dale Stephens, in a much better place. Even Diego Poyet deserves some understanding for his decision to move on.

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But Duchatelet will not change his system. We have reached a point now where that is obvious. Where Fraeye will continue to fulfil a role that isn’t really one of head coach, but propaganda puppet. His job to increase Duchatelet’s ego, and continue his failed experiment that is destroying a club.

You cannot blame these head coaches for taking such a job. Nor can you blame supporters for continuing to attempt to support their team. Several times, myself included, there have been moments where supporters have started to believe Duchatelet and Meire’s attitude had changed. Supporters need to have that hope, in a belief their efforts will be rewarded.

That isn’t supporters being wrong or stupid. It’s natural. To believe something they’ve put so much into in the past, that they love, is still theirs. Still giving them the same feelings it always did.

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Alas, it is not. The Valley will be occupied by those that can’t live without football, or are there out of habit. Supporters will still support, and having their club completely taken away from them is cruel. But they will do so supporting their own notion of what Charlton is, not this mess.

Such an emphatic rally against Duchatelet in the previous 24 hours or so providing some solace amid this horrible feeling that a club I was devoted to is no longer anything like the one I fell in love with.

But it is not even a start to change occurring. Duchatelet and Meire have already shown their stubbornness towards Charlton supporters is unflappable. Murray defiant in silence. Opposition seemingly makes them stronger.

There is, however, a breaking point. A point that forced Duchatelet out of Standard Liege. A point where this ownership will stop undoing the work of Powell on the pitch, and dragging the club away from its supporters in general.

That breaking point must be found. Lots of us need a proper Charlton back in our lives. I don’t want to be reduced to sitting on my own sofa each Saturday at 3pm.

 

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1 Comment

  1. Alan Oakes says:

    Thank you for this eloquent and passionate response to this absolute travesty of an appointment . I do not know of any business that lasts when it treats its paying customers with such disdain.

    I believe this owner has given up on this investment. No one can be as stupid as they appear to be knowing what it will take to avoid relegation and making this 3rd tier Belgian coach our so called interim coach

    Who can believe a word of what KM spouts and certainly no one can trust this owner

    Very , very sad and a complete insult to the intelligence and loyalty of Charlton supporters

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